Barbate was on our list of places to avoid, a dirty, smelly, working fishing port, where we'd be interlopers, fair game for the thieves, in sharp contrast to those sandy beach resorts where us dilettante watersporters are greeted with interest and intrigue. So, after landing at the port last night, we'd immediately re-launched, heading for the resort of Zahara de los Atunes, but we had nothing left to give, we couldn't fight the Levante anymore, we gave up and landed at the end of Barbate town beach.......at least we weren't still in the port.
But by the time I'd guided Fab and the camper through the backstreets, two local kids had already discovered our boards stashed in the dunes and were whistling their mates to come and help. I shooed them off, then we dragged our kit to the camper and chained it to the chassis. There was no campsite here, so we were 'free camping', parked up at the back of an industrial unit delivering 24 hour ice ( there must be a need!). The police soon came knocking. Expecting to be moved on, we sent Fab out with her best Spanish, but no, he just asked us to de-rig our stuff and put it on the camper roof before the thieves took it. We told him that it was all chained up, but he said the thieves would just cut the locks. My suspicions confirmed, we thanked him and reluctantly de-rigged our kit and hauled it up onto the roof with our aching arms.
Morning and the Levante continued; Tom and I steeled ourselves for more slogging to windward against it, then launched off Barbate town beach, another silky southern strand, our end spoilt by the stench of sewage funneling off the river that flows down from the port. The landscape was majestic, timeless andalucia. Tinder dry dusty orange mountains, sparsely peppered with vegetation, rose high into the distance, big undulating open plains welded the gaps between them. Sometimes the mountains met the sea, sometimes the plains swooped down to dip in the ocean. This scenery dwarfed the last couple of towns, Barbate and Zahara/Antlanterra, man's only outposts on Europe's final, remote promontory.
Inshore was flat, gusty and windy, offshore got cleaner, but lumpier and yet windier. We criss-crossed each other down the coast, one tacking way out to sea, the other headed inshore. Hard work, heavy going, but 'do-able'. Cape Gracia ahead was the last land we could see, behind that, Tarifa and Morocco: the Straits of Gibraltar. Tarifa is a windsurfer's mecca, the windiest place in Europe. Like the waters in the straits below, the air is funneled between the Sierra Nevada and the 2,500 kilometres of the Atlas Mountains on the other side until it reaches Tarifa where it can only either blow in or out. In is called Poinente, out is Levante, the more ferocious of the two winds.
I'd been in Tarifa when you could not stand straight against the wind, 40 to 50 knots of Levante. Approaching Cape Gracia, I was fearful of what we might find around the corner, we were already beating into 20 to 25 knots of Levante, with the sun shining and mid afternoon approaching, the local effects could easily see that double. I was on an inshore tack; I paused just off one of the pretty coves of Atlanterra, the opulent mega villas of the rich (and the fraudulent) perched above me, a few holiday makers sprinkled on the beaches and in the waters below. I tensioned up my rig in preparation for what might come; it took the drive out the sail and slowed me slightly, but I was erring on the side of caution.
As I beat back out to sea, I could start to peer round the back of Cape Gracia and hazily the peeks of the Rif Mountains began to poke into view. Africa! Africa at last! After two thousand four hundred miles of windsurfing the first sight of another continent!